Part of the fun of camping is cooking outdoors. That grilled flavor is like nothing else. But cooking over a fire isn’t as easy as using a charcoal grill. Charcoal gives a rich flavor that gas stoves can’t match.
Maybe you’re an old hand at grilling outdoors. If so, skip on down to the reviews. But if you’re a little curious about how to choose the best charcoal grill for camping, here are some tips:
Table of Contents
- 1 Size matters when you’re hungry
- 2 Grate choices
- 3 If you want to smoke, get a lid
- 4 The top portable charcoal grills for camping
- 5 Briquettes versus lump charcoal
- 6 Conclusion
Size matters when you’re hungry
When you’re shopping for a new grill, find out how much surface space it has for cooking. For example, if you have a grill with 200 square inches, then neither you nor your partner will have to wait in line for dinner. But if you have four people to cook for, you’ll want a grill with about 400 square inches of surface. Keep adding 100 square inches per person if you plan to grill everyone’s steaks at the same time.
Chefs know that stainless steel grates are resistant to rusting, but food sticks to them. Cast iron is very durable and naturally non-stick, but it needs to be seasoned before use.
If you want to use your grill to cook a variety of foods, check to see if the grates are adjustable to create different temperature zones.
If you want to smoke, get a lid
Some charcoal grills come with lids so they can be used as smokers. It’s not the same as a full-size smoker that can operate for hours, but a portable grill can often be good enough for that special smoky BBQ taste.
Now that you’ve had a quick refresher on features to consider, let’s see which portable charcoal grill you’ll take on your next campout.
The top portable charcoal grills for camping
Can’t you just smell the grill working on those hamburgers and hot dogs right now?
Lodge L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill
The Lodge Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill is entirely made from cast iron. It’s heavy at 27 pounds, but it’s very well-made and durable. The only thing it lacks is a lid for smoking.
The cooking surface measures 17-1/4 by 9-inches in size, or 155 inches square. It’s just big enough for two medium-size steaks or three hamburgers at once.
The grates come pre-seasoned so you have minimal work before you use it the first time. It’s hibachi-style so you regulate the temperature with a draft door and move the grates up and down. It cooks very well with either briquettes or lump charcoal.
When you’re done cooking, pull out the coal tray to dump the ashes, wipe it down, and spray it with Pam or another kind of cooking spray to keep it seasoned and protected from rusting.
Weber 121020 Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill
The Go-Anywhere Charcoal Grill from Weber is very popular because it’s lightweight and easy to clean. It has locking legs for a stable cooking platform and sturdy construction. The stainless steel cooking grates measure 160 square inches in size. Plus, it has a lid to keep heat in, or to do a little smoking.
While you’re cooking, you can’t adjust the height of the grates, but you can regulate air flow with 2 dampers. The body of the grill is made from steel with a porcelain enamel coating so it resists rusting. It’s pretty easy to wipe down when you’re done, but you can make cleanup easier on yourself if you line the bottom with foil.
The locking legs pivot up over the locking lid so the grill fits neatly into a corner of your trunk. There’s also a convenient carrying handle for easy transport. The Go-Anywhere weighs less than 15 pounds.
Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
The Smokey Joe from Weber is shaped like a kettle and built from rust-resistant porcelain enameled steel like the Go-Anywhere. The 14-1/2-inch diameter grate is triple plated with nickel so food doesn’t stick to it like it would on regular stainless steel. It’s large enough for 6 hamburgers or three steaks or several pieces of chicken all at the same time.
With the dome-shaped lid, this grill is even better for smoking than the Go-Anywhere. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get up to full heat for cooking. Check out the owner’s manual that comes in the box. It even has recipes.
Volcano Grills 3-Fuel Portable Camping Stove
If you get the Volcano Grills Camping Stove, you can cook with three different fuels. That’s really handy if you’re camping where there are fire restrictions or if you run out of charcoal. This same grill also doubles as a Dutch Oven or a wok.
The Volano Grills measures 17 by 17 by 12 inches but it collapses down to just 5 inches high for easy transport. It’s made of stainless steel and weighs about 24 pounds.
Son of Hibachi Combo with Snuff-out Pouch
The Son of Hibachi charcoal grill can have your coals hot enough to cool in ten minutes with its built-in chimney. Both grates are made from cast iron and have four adjustable heights. Their total cooking surface is 170 inches square.
The grill weighs about 18 pounds and comes with a carrying/storage bag and a snuff-out pouch. The pouch has a fire retardant lining that lets you pack up the grill while it’s still hot.
Fire Sense Notebook Charcoal Grill
The Fire Sense Notebook Grill is ultra-portable because it folds down to just one inch thick. The carrying handle is cut right into the side of the grill, so you’ll have to let it cool down before you pack it up.
The grill is made from stainless steel. There’s no way to adjust the grate height, and there’s no damper so you have to move the grates to get at the coals. On the other hand, this is a super simple and compact grill that you can always have on hand.
Briquettes versus lump charcoal
If you want a specific flavor for your burgers, like mesquite or hickory, use lump charcoal. You can usually find a bag in the specific type of wood you want. Since it’s charred wood scraps, it burns hotter and makes less ash than briquettes.
Briquettes are made from sawdust with binders like coal or limestone. They burn more evenly than lump charcoal. Some are infused with lighter fluid, but those may leave an oily aftertaste on the food you cook.
It may save you quite a bit of money to purchase charcoal or briquettes at the same time as your grill and have them shipped together. Here are some of the best picks:
Fogo FHWC35LB 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag
You can’t beat lump charcoal for flavor, and this bag of oak hardwood makes for tasty grill-outs.
Kingsford Charcoal Briquets
These are the classic briquettes that practically everyone uses at one time or another.
Weber 7417 FireStarters Lighter Cubes
Don’t settle for an oily taste on your food, use these odorless lighter cubes from Weber.
We hope your next camping trip is even better with your new portable charcoal grill. Check in with us soon to see new reviews of the best outdoor products.